National Consultative Conference
Memorandum by Ben Turok before the ANC`s Morogoro Conference and a "Reply" by Joe Matthews
5 April 1969
The present discussion will be based largely on experiences in Dar es Salaam and on information obtained from other comrades from time to time. . . .
WHAT IS WRONG? . . . No one in the movement can be content with the present situation; all must be aware of a deepgoing malaise such as we have never known before. . . .
Theoretical. . . . one must point to the absence of discussion documents of any kind for a long period, and to the utter failure of our leadership to introduce a political line in the movement which could orientate it to our main tasks: the struggle at home. . . .
Political. . . . In Dar es Salaam practically no efforts have been made over a very long time to keep the membership informed of the work of the leadership. There have been no reports back from conferences, no formal reports on the fighting in Zimbabwe, no discussion of the difficulties around us. Instead, we seem to have been faced by bureaucracy, heavily entrenched in office, hostile to questions and tightlipped in extreme. . . .
Style of work. . . . Our officials have come to adopt authoritarian attitudes towards comrades in lower positions. . . . Evidence of maladministration is massive. . . . There have been a number of cases of cash embezzlement which are known to many of us. . . .
Drunkenness was at one time a major feature of our office in Dar es Salaam _ day and night. Some comrades were drunk for days on end, and those who should have set an example were sometimes no better. There has been an improvement recently, but the intention here is not to point a finger, it is to comment on a style of work wholly out of keeping with a serious movement. . . . [L]eading personnel who visit Dar es Salaam for short periods often stay in a hotel. . . . the sight of leaders spending evening after evening in a bar is not one of which can bring credit to our movement. . . .
Mobilisation of rank and file. . . . Perhaps the most deplorable aspect of the work of the movement in Dar es Salaam is the treatment meted out to our military comrades. A number of officials working at political posts have openly shown the most appalling contempt for the army men, failing to exercise common courtesy let alone according them the honour they deserve. Our men in Mandela camp live in squalor. They sleep on the floor on thin mats, their building is in disrepair and there is every evidence of gross neglect. . . . Our men are volunteers, they live a dull, monotonous existence of waiting. . . . The camp itself badly needs a face-lift. It needs some decoration, some facilities for amusement, a flat or two, a proper library with up to date magazines, in short, it must be turned into a home for the sick and the homeless. At present it is a slum.
WHY THINGS ARE GOING WRONG
. . . . [T]here can be no doubt but that everyone in the movement is deeply concerned with our frustrations in going home. No one can be happy in exile. . . . THERE IS NO GOING BACK OUTLOOK. While we must pay the highest tribute to the action of our immortal heroes of Zimbabwe battles, it is obvious that those actions could only be regarded as one of the steps necessary. If the great majority of our personnel spent most of their time on concentrated activity oriented around the question of going home, little of the weaknesses mentioned in part 1 above would have emerged. What is required is a total approach to this problem with exploration at every level, with constant practical training in all related fields, for the numerous problems that the act of going home will bring out. How many of our leaders can read a compass proficiently? How many can move comfortably at night? How many are physically fit? How many know elementary first aid? Once we ask these questions it becomes immediately apparent that there are many who do not have the appearance of suitability for going home. . . . [T]oo many of our people are no longer concerned with the problems of the struggle but rather with those of adjustment to life in exile. And the temptations are often great for a life of comparative security and ease.
It is often said that for an organisation to be healthy, the discrepancies between the elders and the rank and file ought not to be too great. Obviously leaders need peace of mind, some comfort, and facilities for quiet work. However, it ought to be constantly borne in mind that these requirements ought not to be an excuse for the emergence of an elite. . . . [T]here has been little elective democracy in our movement for well over a decade. . . . democracy must be seen to operate _ the power of recall is basic to discipline and mutual respect between leaders and led. . . .
PROPOSALS AND CONCLUSIONS
Immediate Tasks. Since an atmosphere of crisis prevails in our ranks at present it is necessary to take such concrete remedial action as will ease off the tension. The most helpful way this could be done is by a large scale planning operation centred around the problems of “going home”. . . .
The most dynamic, imaginative and experienced personnel in the movement must be drawn into a special planning council to examine every aspect and every possibility. They will have to study all possible routes: land, sea and even perhaps air, in order that no possibility is missed. . . .
[W]hat is wanted is a vast network bearing vital information to the centre of operational planning and carrying instructions and suggestions for investigation outwards. . . .
Part of the work of this planning council should be the setting up of highly specialised training schools where our personnel are put through carefully prepared courses in the kind of activities they will be engaged in on return. . . .
Organisational. . . . In sum, it is suggested that comrades of all races be admitted to full membership of the ANC outside South Africa, on the condition that African comrades predominate and are seen to predominate on all committees and in the general work of the organisation.. . . .
Report Back. Regular report back conferences to check up on work planned ought to be held every few months. Leaders should give an account of their work and subject themselves to scrutiny. The replacement of tired leaders or those who have failed in their duties ought to be given attention regularly. Machinery for the election of replacements must be developed.
There is a great deal more to be said if our struggle is to rise to the heights of former days. We have a proud history of political struggle, and the heroes of Zimbabwe have blazed a new path of military action. It is up to those of us who are now lying relatively immobilised in exile to take up with new resolve the fight to free South Africa. There is no more noble task before mankind today.
Reply (unsigned) by Joe Matthews:
The Preparatory Committee has had an opportunity to study the document submitted by Comrade Turok which was found very interesting and illuminating. . . .
We note that the document begins by admitting a lack of information except such as has been gained in Dar es Salaam or from hearsay. It should be remarked that in the circumstances a great deal of caution would be required in drawing any general conclusions from such a limited experience.
Everyone in the movement is aware of the fact that the movement is in many ways going through a very difficult period. . . .
Much of the running around or “globe trotting” was devoted to arranging for training in various countries; collecting weapons; obtaining funds; persuading governments to allow camps in their countries which took years to achieve; to getting governments to agree to arms being brought into their countries and to allow them to be used for training; to go through the excruciatingly painful job of begging all kinds of governments and organisations for what appear to any revolutionary to be obvious and simple requests. . . .
It is highly doubtful if . . . [there is a] need to make a new theoretical analysis of the South African revolution and to raise the level of our ideological thinking. We are faced with actual, organisational and practical problems. How do you get well-armed men to designated bases in South Africa safely, so that they can carry out their tasks? How do you get trained underground workers into the country to do work and survive under those conditions? How do you set up efficient propaganda machinery inside the country? How do you get arms into the hands of the people in South Africa? . . .
The point made regarding accountability and the making of reports to inform the membership and so on is well made. . . . Though it should be borne in mind that the matters on which most people seek information and which have important political meaning are precisely those which are sensitive militarily and politically dangerous in countries that are not ours.
Being away from our mass base and without democracy in the form of meetings, conferences, elections and so on _ quite clearly the danger of bureaucracy becomes sharp. . . . An examination of the experiences of the PAC and other movements will soon show that the utmost vigilance is required in any revolutionary movement against possibility of infiltration and disruption by enemy agents _ this is especially so where the internal mass movement is not there to sift and vouch for people who come outside claiming to be members of the movement. . . .
The paragraph dealing with style of work seems to the Preparatory Committee to be too lurid, melodramatic and unjust. The statements are too general and sweeping and therefore cannot even be checked. . . .
“There have been a number of cases of embezzlement.” This is a very serious charge. Our movement has severely punished some comrades found guilty of misusing funds. Fortunately this has not been a problem in our movement in contrast to some others. In fact, we have had the opposite accusation that our Treasury is too tight-fisted with money. . . .
It is regrettable that a few comrades in our movement are given to excessive drinking. But is the whole of our machinery to be castigated for this fault? If it is confined to some individuals, however prominent, should we not in fact say so and to use your words “point a finger”? . . .
As regards the problem of accommodation of “leading personnel who visit Dar es Salaam for short periods,” they should stay at a hotel because they must be accommodated. The hotel they often go to is the worst in Dar es Salaam, precisely to save on costs. . . . There was a time when our headquarters were in Dar es Salaam and there were many comrades accommodated there. Then it was possible for comrades to stay at the residences of other comrades. . . . We do not know of leaders who spend “evening after evening in a bar”. . . .
The paragraphs dealing with the need to involve our members more and those relating to the need to improve the conditions of MK men and also to intensify political work are high on the agenda of the conference. All proposals to this end are welcome. But here again, are some statements not too sweeping and generalised?
The suggestion that there has been an emergence of an “elite” is amazing. The conditions in which leading personnel are forced to work, certainly in Tanzania, can hardly be described as inducing the emergence of an elite. . . . The ANC leadership can hardly be described as living the life of an “elite” as compared with other members, including the MK, despite the remarks on Mandela camp. . . . The conditions under which our top leadership such as Tambo, Kotane, Marks and other leaders are living ought to fill members of the Congress movement with absolute shame if they had any conscience. . . .
The proposals in your document are all very welcome indeed and, in particular, the one for integration of all personnel in the ANC, we believe could be a tremendous step forward which could galvanise the whole movement. There is no doubt that something along these lines will emerge from our conference. . . .
We must stress that the aforegoing represents the view of the Preparatory Committee, which is responding to all contributions and will welcome further comments so as to ensure that we arrive at the conference completely united in our approach.
Some matters of an ideological and theoretical nature we have not dealt with because they will be with us for years during the revolution and are more long-term. The same applies to problems of strategy and tactics.